Sunday, 28 November 2010

It's a Bit Bleedin' Quiet 'Round 'Ere, Innit?

I have not been very productive of late, due to events outside the life of this blog (i.e. reality colliding with hopes and aspirations). So, as a sop to the eager masses (F.X - silence, barring the chirping of crickets) I shall put up an oldish effort. To wit, three old biddies undertaking the noble art of black magick. Well, two of them are. I thought it would be awfully witty to have the more inexperienced member to carry out her nefarious deeds on a ventriloquist's dummy.
In the hands of a better artist it may have worked. As it is... well I don't think it's too bad actually. It was originally for one of the caption competitions and sank sans trace, so lets just keep this one to ourselves, shall we?

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Pablo Honey

What can I say? I personally rather like this one despite it being very rushed. It is based on Picasso's Woman in Hat and as a cartoon idea is probably as old as Cubism. But, as rush jobs go, the elements hang together quite well. Picasso actually looks like Picasso too!
Worrying aspects? I've noticed that any young woman I draw has a very generous embonpoint. Why is this worrying? It's because I'm a leg man, myself.

Tuesday, 5 October 2010


" 'O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!'
He chortled in his joy."
Welly well well. Today I am a heppy heppy Ket. My world is awash with seas of smugness and nothing will assuage the briney deep. For I am, dear reader, the winner of Caption Competition 62. If you click on the montage it will open in a new window and you can gaze upon the marvels within. I won by a hair's breadth, but by Jove, it feels good! Did I mention that I'm this week's winner? Did I? I did?! Well, fancy that! Me, a winner! I still can't quite believe it.
I didn't think I would have time to enter this week as I had a very full timetable. I think there is still plenty of room for improvement, technically speaking (that overcoat is a bit wince inducing), but I think the rest is nicely understated.
I won't say anymore than that in case this over-inflated ego goes pop! Cheesy grin doesn't even come close.

Sunday, 26 September 2010

It's Those Scamps From Universal Pictures Again!

Here is this week's entry to the Caption Competition
Voting is taking place as I type, so who knows what the future may hold? Once again I have drawn (ho ho!) on 1930s horror icons as a source for humour. Why is this such a strong influence on me? In the nineteen-sixties, when DC comics like Superman, Batman and Green Lantern were not confined to specialist comics shops (they hadn't been invented yet), a young tyke like myself could sporadically follow the adventures of these super heroes in the local newsagents. Every now and again the backcovers advertised Aurora models of the Wolf-Man, Dracula, Frankenstein's Monster and a rather frightening thing called the Forgotten Prisoner. I saw the latter at just about the time Joan Baez was singing There But For Fortune and therefore made her lyrics particularly graphic. These things were unobtainable to a lad like yours truly - until...
There used to be a hobby shop in Stevenage called the Hobby Shop (we know our onions in Stevenage) and amazingly, one day, there in the window, in the flesh (okay, cardboard box, clever clogs) stood the exotically ubobtainable Aurora models. Did I buy any? No I did not. I wasn't going to have these monsters in my bedroom, half illuminated by my Yogi Bear and Huckleberry Hound night light. I had nightmares enough already, thank you very much for asking! The cause of these nightmares? There used to be a programme on the telly, on ITV, called, simply enough, Cinema. Clive James was an occasional host, but he shared the duties with another sardonic commentator whose name escapes me (Mike something?). Every now and again Cinema, rather than just reviewing current releases, would run a themed special. One particular week it was Horror. I pleaded and begged my parents to allow me to watch it and they eventually gave way on the understanding that there wouldn't be any nonsense about ghosts and monsters when I went to bed (i.e. I wasn't to wake up screaming in the middle of the night). I watched most of the programme from behind my fingers (wimp!). Two elements stood out very starkly, unless my memory is fooling me. One was a sequence from an Abbot and Costello film where they place a bed up against the door to prevent Frankenstein's monster entering the room. The door opened the other way, thereby negating what was, to my mind, a safe haven (bed), the other was the transposition of the soundtrack from On the Town (Gene Kelly, Frank Sinatra) to the visuals on The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms. It is very disconcerting for a young boy to witness a huge monster creating death and destruction to the jaunty background singing of New York, New York.
I shamefully admit that I did not keep my side of the bargain with my parents. I think every light in the house had to stay on.
P.S. It was this programme that introduced me to Kurosawa's Throne of Blood. There you are, a bit of bleedin' kullchar for a working-class boy.

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Incroyable! New! Improved! Bigger Cheesier Grin!

Draw yourselves up closer to the fire, O best beloveds, and toast your tootsies comfortably in the embers, for I have an astounding tale to tell. Let the bitter, cold night-winds fade away ( By that I don't mean farts, by the way) and listen, open-mouthed and eyes agog as I tell you this; for the second week running I have gained silver on the winner's podium in The Cartoonists' Club of Great Britain's weekly caption competition. I am still hugging myself. Everything just clicked into place for me. Long story? Well, it was either War and Peace or Moby Dick. Luckily for me I opted for the latter. Duane (Wombat) opted for the former. It just illustrates very graphically how two people can have the same idea and yet treat it very differently.
My first scribblings depicted two sperm whales, one white, one black, but it just looked awkward. Then, I hit upon using an octopus. An octopus can point. Three facial expressions: Anger, inquisitiveness and world-wearyness et voila!
O frabjous day! I'm a heppy heppy heppy Kat!

Sunday, 12 September 2010

Why Am I Wearing A Big, Cheesy Grin?

This week's little doodle placed me amongst the gods. That is why I am wearing a big, cheesy grin. I was voted into second place in this particular competition. There wasn't a montage available, so you'll have to scroll through all the lovely piccies. Incidentally, don't forget that if you click on the masterpiece to your left it will increase in size, majesty and glory.
Why did it go so right for me this week? I think it's because I'm finally starting to get facial expressions and body posture nailed. Noel Ford (yes, the Noel Ford) made special mention of the two chaps seated at the table, which was why he voted it as his number one. Personally, I'm very pleased with the lady on the right, she seems to have a personality that is lacking in a couple of the others. The pencils were even better in my opinion.
Perspective? Okay, the perspective is a little dodgy. Sexist? Do women like shoes? Do women like chocolate? This cartoon only came about through intense personal observation of the female of the species, so how can it be sexist?
The prosecution rests, m'lud.
Incidentally, I'm still grinning one week later.

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Long-Legged Lovelies

Gentlemen of a certain age (i.e. mine) may get a certain frisson from this week's competition entry. During my, erm, burgeoning years I was subjected to the Tiller Girls each week on Sunday Night at the London Palladium. For those of you too young to remember when the window on the world was black and white, the Tiller Girls were a troupe of high-kicking women in skimpy (although modern eyes would probably regard them as quite robust) costumes designed to display their legs. Ah, the legs. The women in the Tiller Girls lost their individuality as they morphed into a precise, tightly timed and co-ordinated human centipede. Their legs rose and dropped at exactly the same second. Sometimes, using little demi-kicks, the row of girls split into two separate entities slowly turning clockwise or anti-clockwise on their own axes. I am trying to describe all this from an unreliable memory, but it was all very skilled and clever and charged with an erotic undercurrent, which is why I think the chap at the end is one of my more successful creations.
I was going for total incongruity with this cartoon and I think (for all its faults) I pretty much achieved what I set out to do. There is the incongruous image of a pudgy little man in his underwear high-kicking with a chorus line of long-legged lovelies, but it is the expression on his face which I think works very well indeed. I aimed for an expression of surprise that he should be asked to cease dancing - why on earth would I want to come with you when I'm dancing in a chorus line for an audience? Well, that's what I feel would be his reply to the two intrusive gentlemen in evening dress.
The faults? I think they speak for themselves. The girls aren't just tall, they are positively elongated and stretched. A little spell studying human anatomy might not go amiss. I tried to hint at fishnet tights, but I don't think it really came off. The string vest was an essential part of the humour and was supposed to echo the fishnet tights but, again, it didn't really come off. I'm not going to let these shortcomings bother me too much; after all, I can't envisage the need to draw too many fishnet tights and string vests in the future.
I reverted to my usual cartridge paper and Indian ink this week. I also used a little bit of light pencilling on the finished drawing. This is an avenue I might explore more in the future.
If you would like to see all the winners and also-rans (moi) kindly step this way, you will not be disappointed. There are some real beauties this week and a very deserving number one.

Friday, 13 August 2010

Dummy De Dum Dummy De Dum Oooh Weee Yew...

This, let me kid you nowise, is Matt Smith. Oh yes it is. This is my contribution to the Cartoonist's Club of Great Britain's inaugural Caricature Competition, the subject matter of which is Matt Smith. This is my caricature of Matt Smith as Dr. Who wearing a fez. He wears a fez now. Fezes are cool. Click on the pic and watch it grow! See, it really is Matt Smith.
Now then, O best beloved, it could be argued that this is not a caricature at all. It could be argued that it is just a straight-forward drawing of the actor Matt Smith playing Dr. Who and that it doesn't actually loook like him. This argument is so feeble-minded and deluded it doesn't really merit a counter-argument, so I won't proffer one. I won't, do you hear me? It's Matt Smith, dammit, Matt Smith.
I will admit to this. Several weeks ago I drew a cartoon called "Well that's where your problem is." featuring Matt Smith as Dr. Who. Here is my admission. I think that cartoon looks more like him than this caricature and I wasn't consciously caricaturing him. *SIGH*
Now then, dear reader, if you want to see how it should be done, get thee hence to here. If you scroll down a bit you should find a composite picture of all the entries. Some are truly marvels to behold. The bar has been set, the gauntlet has been thrown down, the challenge has been, um, challenged sort of thingy. Let slip the dogs of war. Gok Wan here I come!

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Just a Roll, Just a Roll on Your Drum.

The more culturally erudite and intellectually perspicacious among you will have duly noted that this entry's title is taken from Fairport Convention's Sloth. Knuckle-draggers won't be reading this anyway, so I don't have any worries on that score. Only the best people read this blog, so count yourself as being one of the elite.
All the entries may be seen ici for your delight and delectation and in my opinion the winner was a very worthy one. Yours truly came sixth out of eighteen entries and I'm VERY happy with that, I was worried that there would be seventeen other apple trees this week. Perhaps everybody did, indeed, think about it but rejected it as being too simple, leaving the field - or should I (ha ha) say - orchard open to me.
Good points: the posture is nice and relaxed and not too disproportionate.
Bad points: I'm going to take an axe to that tree.

Monday, 2 August 2010

But I Digress

My first caption competition entry for what seems a lifetime. A very rushed affair and probably not very original, but it's a start. I quite like the instrument tray and the nurse's bored expression - not an easy thing to convey through a mask. Lots of things wrong too, but it's nice to start to get back in the saddle.

Saturday, 31 July 2010

A Little Update

I'm sorry I haven't published anything in the last few weeks. Life can sometimes turn on a sixpence when it comes to changes of direction. My home has been teeming with people and I haven't had the opportunity to put pen to paper. We'll see how things go. I don't really want to say anymore than that.

Monday, 5 July 2010

Caption Cartoon No. 49 No Cartoon No Ideas

The wind whistles, tuneless and low, through the withered branches of a dried out tree. Grains of sand move listlessly, if at all, over a barren and featureless landscape. The desiccated husk of a once living creature lies as a silent reproach to an unfulfilled future. What once were dreams have come to die a countless number of ignoble deaths in this bleak, forbidding, soulless, arid land. All is dust; dust and dirt and nothing lives. Anything that dares to rise up and scream out in anger to an empty void "I am alive and I shall live," is immediately struck down and destroyed for betraying such brash impudence. How dare it presume to live?
I think the foregoing very accurately describes my creative ability this week. I could not for the life of me think of anything that imaginatively caught fire. The caption should have been the seed-bed of fecund creativity. The caption was "It's showtime!" Brilliant isn't it? So, why couldn't I come up with an image to match?
Do you want to know what I came up with? Well, whether you do or you don't, here they come. I scribbled down an Aztec High Priest about to sacrifice a surprised looking victim. Two worried looking dolphins in a Seaworldyesquetype theme park. A flasher in front of two old ladies in the park. A chorus line of Daleks with hats and canes. A dog scratching itself in a flea circus. An open flower nudging a closed flower in front of an impatient-looking bee. A male Peacock displaying for a Peahen. That's it. Nothing really worked for me.

Now look at this week's entries here.

Green? Green with envy? Moi? Of course I am. I loved the Penguins. Now why couldn't I come up with something like that?
Next week's competition is extra special with real prizes involved, so I have to lift my game; unlike a certain team in a well known global competition accross which we ought to draw a veil (actually a heavy curtain would be better).

Last night I drew a little mood piece, that's it at the top. Don't worry, I'm not suicidal or anything like that, just a little clueless at the moment.
Just wait until next week!
By the way, just a little reminder that if you click on my efforts they'll get bigger (fnarr fnarr!).

Monday, 28 June 2010

Caption Competition No. 48 "Been away?"

Ahem! Yes, well... (cough).

Ever since I began cartooning with something approaching serious intent, one of my greatest hobby-horses was the fact that my pencils, no matter how rough or inaccurate they were, had more zip and verve than my inked drawings. Older readers will know that my working method is to use a light-box in conjunction with my pencilled work in order to produce an inked, unsurpassed masterpiece ready to grace the walls of Tate Britain. Or, in other words, a loose approximation of my original pencilled idea in India ink. Alas, gentle reader, the path of good intention is strewn with manky, lifeless inks that are merely on nodding terms with the pencils even though they were created with the same hands. What these words indicate is a deep, artistic frustration.

Well, this week was gonna be different. Oh by crikey, yes indeedy. No more dead-as-a-doornail inks for this young bucko, oh no. This week the pencils will serve as only a very loose template. Pick out the salient bits and then let your nib run free. Yes free, free as a bird. Let the ink flow. Scratch away as you would with a pencil. It'll all come right in the end.

That was the theory.

What we have here is a salutary lesson in ambtition out-stripping ability. Look at those legs fer gawd's sake. Human, equine and simian - they're all dreadful.

No more joie de vivre approaches to cartooning for me, it's too depressing. In future, I think I'd rather substitute accuracy for spontaneity.

The pencils? Here you are.

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Captionless Caption Competition Cartoon Week 47

Avast me hearties! This week's subject were Pirates, ha-harrr! And didn't it bring up a chest load of booty from Davy Jones' locker. It made a sentimental old sea-faring cook like meself quite proud o' me trade to see treasure such as this. O' course, you'll 'ave to scroll down in order to feast your eyes (ha-harrrr!). I be very pleased with me own efforts this week and I'll keel-haul any scurvy dog who says I shouldn't be.
P.S. Ha-harrr!

Saturday, 19 June 2010

A Quick Update

This is my entry for last week. A poor idea, badly executed (I'm quite pleased with the chemical paraphanalia, though). I've changed my ink and paper with disconcerting results. The ink seems more watery and the paper started to behave like a blotter. Curses, curses and thrice curses! I may not be able to enter this week, I have a lot going on. We'll see. Okay, that's it. Gotta go.

Sunday, 6 June 2010

Caption Competition No. 45. Daleks

I'm not going to wait for the scoring this week. The points don't matter. This week's subject produced a superb crop of cartoons here. Last week's winner, Noel Ford - a cartoonist of God-like proportions - opted for a captionless competition, the theme being Daleks. Readers of this blog will know of my mild infatuation with Daleks ever since their first appearance on the goggle-box in 1963, so I was determined to do something a little bit special, if I possibly could. Whether I did or not I'll leave to others.
Having got a subject I could drool over, my imagination suddenly shut down and buggered off. At moments like these I always find it best to find time to stare out of the window and allow my mind to wander. Idea number one came up from the murk quite slowly. There has always been a comedic link between Daleks and stairs, possibly started by a Birkett cartoon in Punch magazine. A group of Daleks have assembled at the foot of some stairs. The caption is "Well, this certainly buggers our plan to conquer the universe."
The late Douglas Adams apocryphally incurred the wrath of the Terry Nation estate when he alluded to the Daleks' inability to climb anything but a slope during his stint as Script Editor on Doctor Who during the Tom Baker years.
So, what was my idea? A fallen, weeping Dalek at the foot of some stairs being observed by a group at the top.
Yeah, well. That was the first idea. Next I thought about Daleks behaving like humans, but in their own setting. If you are going to invade a planet, you would have to assemble somewhere wouldn't you. What if there were a planet Skaro equivalent of Heathrow airport? I envisaged Daleks going about Dalek duty-free shops while a huge notice board showed cancelled and delayed flights to Earth and Gallafrey, respectively. And that's as far as that thought went.
It was now Friday evening and I had pretty much resigned myself to drawing up the fallen Dalek gag-in-inverted-commas. Suddenly an unbidden image of dissolute Daleks popped into my head. What if they were has-beens? Why would they be has-beens? Some of the most scary Doctor Who stories were written by Stephen Moffat: Blink with David Tennant (almost in a peripheral part) and the recent two-parter, both instances involving the Weeping Angels. All I needed to do was add a disdainful Doctor walking past et voila.
I had a lot of fun drawing this one and the subject matter seemed to lift everybody's game. As you will have seen by now, this week's competition produced a vintage crop of cartoons. Sod the marking, it has been a good week.

A Little Bit of Politics, My Name is Ben Elton, Goodnight

I thought I'd put this up now or else it will never see the light of day. On top of which BP seem to be getting their -um - stuff together now. Seen from the British Isles, I could not understand why Americans are blaming their President for not solving an ecological catastrophe that was not of his making. Sorry for the double negative, but you know what I mean. Wossallthatabaht? Why aren't the Bush family calling on the technical know-how of their oleagenous supporters of yore? Indeed, where is Red Adair? Speaking of whom, affords me the opportunity to repeat a joke too good to be lost and forgotten through the very many veils of time.
The joke had horrific beginnings with the Piper Alpha disaster in the late eighties, but the result is this: After capping the fire on Alpha Piper, Red Adair was having a well-earned drink in a Scottish pub. After a few minutes a Scotsman approached him.
"Are you Red Adair?"
"Yes, buddy, I am."
"Well then, allow me to buy you a double single-malt whisky for saving all that Scottish oil."
"Why, thank you very much."
A few minutes later he is approached by an Englishman.
"Excuse me,but are you Red Adair?"
"Yes, buddy, indeed I am."
"I think you're a remarkably brave man. Please allow me to buy you a scotch as a mark of appreciation for saving all that British oil."
"That's very kind of you, sir. Thank you very much."
A few minutes later an Irishman with a cleft palate approached him.
"Excuse me, but are you Red Adair?"
"Yes, sir, I am."
"Are you still dancing with Ginger Rogers?"

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Cartoon Caption Competition No. 44

Big cheesy grin time this week. My grin is so big the edges almost meet at the back and the top of my head is at risk of toppling off. Yup, that big. Despite all its faults - and there are many - I came joint third with this week's cartoon. The other entries are here, but you have to scroll down a little bit. Lots of clowns this week as you may have noticed. I tried to find out if there was a collective noun for clowns on the webtrinet, but I couldn't find a genuine one. Or, at least one that I consider to be genuine. May I suggest a klaxon of clowns?
Enny whey, fifteen points and joint third place, eh? Not bad for a badly drawn cartoon. The idea was quite strong and the facial expressions came right for me. The wrong things? The strangely elongated human bodies, the cocked up perspective, the fingers that seem to contain only two joints (joints? tee hee!) and look at that door in the background. I don't know what happened there. It was the last thing I drew and suddenly I couldn't draw a straight line to save my life.
Still, I took a lot of time over the toking doggy's expression and, without wishing to brag (too much), I got it right. It's so satisfying when it clicks.
By the way, the cheesy grin is back.

Monday, 24 May 2010

Childhood Nightmares: Caption Competition No. 43

Well, well, well. And how many points did I garner this week? Let me see. Errrrmm.
Zilchola. Nuffinkini. Sweat Farnni Adamski.
A fellow competitor had a very similar idea to mine and came third with 23 points. You can see all the entries here. The difference? His was funny, mine was just horrible. Although, I was rather pleased with the monster's face - a very strong Baxendale influence there. The arms are all over the place (ho! ho!) and vary in size. Ohhh! There are just so many things wrong with this drawing. Nothing much else to say, really. There's always next week.
Anyway, I'm off to slam every door in the house.

Sunday, 23 May 2010

Heroes (2) Leo Baxendale

Let me take you back to my childhood... childhood... childhood... childhood... childhood...
(Sound FX) Gently ascending chords played on a harp.
Are you sitting comfortably? Then I'll begin. I want to concentrate for a little while on June 1964, when I was seven years old. I wouldn't be eight until December. Up until the April of this year we had a choice of two channels on the telly; BBC and ITV and all in black and white. In April BBC2 started broadcasting and BBC became BBC1. Still with me? Everything was still being broadcast in black and white but we now had a choice of three channels, one of which was impossible to watch unless you had a switch on the side of your telly that allowed you watch UHF broadcasts on 625 lines (BBC1 and ITV broadcasted on 405 line VHF at this point). So, what is the point of all this background information? I want you to be aware of the impact on a receptive mind one single television programme could have at that time. In the here and now, a television programme has to shout very loudly indeed in order to make any sort of impression against the hub-bub of twenty four hour, multi-channel broadcasting. Curiously the programme that impressed me in those tri-channel, black and white days, is impressing a modern audience too: Dr. Who.
The Daleks crashed into my consciousness in December 1963 and if they paralysed or exterminated you, the visual world turned upside down: black became white, white became black. The Daleks had an eerie grace as they glided across metal floors. Their voices were totally unearthly, metallic croaks which no child could imitate for any great length of time in the playground. I was besotted. I drew Daleks and Thals in blue biro on lined, newsprint grade notepaper, cut them out and made stands for them and displayed them on the television set (they kept flopping over because they weren't backed with card and didn't have any support, but I was very pleased with my exhibit). It was a scary programme for children and I was hooked.
Seven months later (June 1964, remember?) another event took place which would fill my spongiform (but in a good way) brain. Odhams published a comic called Wham! and introduced me to the art and wit of Leo Baxendale. I had already unwittingly come into contact with Leo Baxendale's surreal world in The Beano and The Beezer before I set my little peepers on Wham!, but all the work in The Beano were by anonymous beings and I'll touch on this fact later.
Baxendale (as any fule kno) is the creator of Little Plum, Minnie the Minx and The Bash Street Kids in The Beano. My comic reading at that age was a bit erratic and mainly depended on whether my mum and dad could afford to buy me a comic that week. When I could, I would opt for The Topper, The Beezer, The Dandy or The Beano (all published by D. C. Thomson), or else TV Comic (published by Polystyle). There were other comics too, of course, lots and lots of them and, rather like television today, a comic in those days had to be a little bit special in order to stand out from the others, which is exactly what Wham! did. This brilliant panel is one of the reasons why. This was thrilling and scary stuff for a seven-year-old boy. This particular frame is taken from Eagle-Eye Junior Spy which tuned into a mass of popular cultural trends and would continue to do so throughout its run. Eagle-Eye was a schoolboy spy, reflecting the fact that the James Bond franchise was starting its ascendancy: From Russia With Love had been released the previous year and Goldfinger was just around the corner; as was The Man From U.N.C.L.E., another slick, super-spy fantasy partly created by Ian Fleming.
Grimly Feendish, Eagle-Eye's arch-enemy, inhabited a world of half seen horrors with octopoidal tentacles snaking out of roadside gratings and strange, three-eyed things grinned with dagger-teeth at you out from the dark. Best of all these thrills and horrors came at you in floods of brilliant colour. One of Baxendale's most nightmarish creations was a horrible entity called a Mouff. It bounced along on one foot and swallowed people whole. Let me assure you, I was VERY reluctant to turn off the Yogi Bear and Huckleberry Hound Nightlight after clocking that particular monstrosity. No doubt a Freudian psycho-analyst would put this horror of the Mouff down to a vagina-dentata fear deeply buried in the Id (at the age of seven? I do not think so), nevertheless it was a scary creature to have depicted in a children's comic. I should point out here that these images were printed in a comic that also published Ken Reid's Frankie Stein - more stuff of nightmares! Small wonder, then, that I turned out like I have. I refer the reader to the various postings on this site of cartoons, the theme of which are almost all based on monsters, either human or inhuman, as an illustration of my own worrying psyche.

Wham! was printed through a process called photogravure as opposed to the more usual, cheaper newsprint of other comics. This was reflected in the comic's price, which was roughly twice as expensive as the D.C. Thomson output, but the colour quality matched that of The Eagle and TV Comic. Not every page was in colour, just the outer cover and the centre spread, but they really made a strong impact. In addition to these riches, Baxendale would often add little clockwork Daleks in his pieces. He had, naturally, won my heart and soul.

So, how the hell did I know who this genius was? I knew through the simple fact that, in Wham!, he signed his work. His fellow artist, Ken Reid, was also allowed to sign his work. This simple act was almost unheard of at the time. I think I'm right in saying that the only exceptions to this comic artists' anonyminity were Dudley D. Watkins (Lord Snooty, Desperate Dan) and, much earlier, Alan Morley (Hungry Horace, Keyhole Kate), both being staff artists for D.C. Thomson and the latter artist was only allowed to sign his initials. Baxendale had never been allowed to sign his work in The Beano and when he did, it was removed before it went to print. His Beano work was said to have directly increased the sales and success of that comic.
Although I was a Beano reader before Wham! came out, I could not have been aware of LeoBaxendale as an individual artist. I have vague memories of a Bash Street Masthead which depicted an adult hand wielding something that looked like a split-ended wooden plank with the kids racing away en masse. It was something called a tawse, was made of leather and seemed to be used exclusively in Scotland. Spare the rod, eh?

There were other visually thrilling and conceptually exciting features drawn by Baxendale in Wham! (General Nitt and his Barmy Army, Georgie's Germs), but I want to move on a bit.

I'm a bit fuzzy on publishing facts, but basically Odhams became part of IPC which owned Fleetway that used to be part of the Amalgamated Press. I think that's right, but I'm always open to correction (oo-er, Matron!) and as a result Leo Baxendale became anonymous again, but his style was immediately identifiable, so as a child I could recognise who drew The Pirates in Buster and the Lion Gang in Lion, or The Champ in Whizzer and Chips.
Then I stopped reading comics, left school and started working in the big, scary world. I worked for a stint in the mid seventies in an engineering firm where I read in an newspaper about a new sort of comic-book by Leo Baxendale. I never saw it in the shops, so I didn't really pursue it. Then later, when I was working in an hospital, a young Doctor waxed lyrical about Leo Baxendale and Willy the Kid and the new Willy the Kid book. This would have been Book 3. I had missed the boat again. Until, quite soon after, I stumbled accross Willy the Kid Book three in a sale at my local book shop. I had no idea how it got into the sale, because I never saw it displayed on the book shelves. I bought it and was immediately smitten with Mr. Baxendale all over again. Years went by and I acquired Books 1 and 2. Here is part of a sequence from Book 1 that had me howling with laughter. It is a bit of incremental ridiculousness that builds up, layer by layer into utter madness. The Willy the Kid books are much treasured possessions, but they are not the only ones.
Over the years, and especially for landmark birthdays, my wife has bought signed Baxendale prints and autobiographies (there are two - A Very Funny Business and Pictures in the Mind). The prints are framed and hang in the hallway. I have a very understanding wife (or should that be long-suffering?).
Every now and again I have sent off little missives to The Guardian letters page relating to Leo Baxendale (if you do a search for Brendan McGuire at The Guardian's web-site you'll find them), usually berating The Guardian for not mentioning him despite the fact that he used to draw a daily strip for them (I Love You Baby Basil). My goodness, if you rile me I'll immediately fire off a letter to The Guardian, so take that as a warning.
The idolatrous climax of this obssession came on 11th November 2003. The Cartoon Art Trust hosted a touring exhibition of Baxendale's art to celebrate fifty years of Little Plum, Minnie the Minx and the Bash Street Kids. I wrote off for a ticket for the private view night and went along. After poring over the art-work and shyly looking accross at the great man himself, Leo's wife approached me and asked me if I would like to meet Leo.
"Ooh, yes please!"
When I introduced myself, he said, "Are you the Brendan McGuire who writes those indignant letters to the Guardian?"

HE KNEW WHO I WAS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

He then went on to talk about cycles in children's entertainment. When he started off, his work and the work of others like Ken Reid and David Law were a reaction against the use of magic as a subject in children's comics. And now, with Harry Potter, magic had come back into vogue. I can only imagine that he thought he had been lumbered with the village idiot as I stood there grinning and nodding in agreement.
At that point he was led away by Steve Bell (yes, the Steve Bell) to address the assembled audience.
Leo Baxendale can come accross as a little fierce and scary in his autobiographies. That evening I met a softly-spoken, gently self-deprecating, warm and gentle man. Whoever said that you should never meet your heroes, because they will always disappoint, was plain wrong in this instance. That evening was a thrill from beginning to end for me. AND Steve Bell drew a penguin for me.

I just want to finish this piece with another little bit of Baxendale daftness. It is from a book titled THRRP! (pronounced - blowing a raspberry) which is best described as a celebration of rudeness. This particular panel is part of Leo's take on the Hare and the Tortoise and probably the least rude image I could use on a public domain. It is the penultimate panel of the story and I present it here purely as a study in silliness.

Monday, 17 May 2010

Caption competition No. 42. My Cartoon.

Here is this week's macabre effort. Nine points! And two people gave me their top marks, putting me into fifth place. This is really buoying up my self confidence and the people concerned have earned themselves permanent golden places in my heart.

Shall I let you into a little secret? It's only mildly shocking really, I suppose, but I didn't really enjoy drawing this cartoon. I worried about this one for ages before commiting it to ink. The pencils had a female victim being just that, a victim and I found that personally disturbing. Is it right to make light of events that still shock today? So, I decided that this particular lass was going to fight back with the option of flipping Jack over on to his back, hence the foot in Jack's gut - his forward momentum should have him sailing far over her head.

I also tried to direct the viewer's eye to the cigarette and away from the potential murder, hence the position of the knife and finger. It was my attempt to dissipate the inherrent horror. I worry far too much, don't I?

So, why did I draw it then? When I saw the caption my initial thoughts ran to Samuel Taylor Coleridge, naturally. Surely everybody has the Romantic poets as a default thought mechanism, don't they? No? Ah.
Here is the pencil rough to sort of nail the idea. Okay, it wasn't really going anywhere, but the germ of an idea was there. Then I made the fatal error of discussing my intended cartoon with a work-mate. He pointed out that, to date, most of my cartoons were quite dark in tone. And like down from a dandelion, I went fluttering down that dark place and drew Jack the Ripper.
Sometimes I frighten myself.

Saturday, 8 May 2010

Ronald Searle: Graphic Master at the Cartoon Museum

Where do I start? After champing at the bit since it opened, today I attended the Ronald Searle exhibition at the Cartoon Museum. I urge you, if at all possible, to attend this event - for it is an event - at this little gem of a venue (we shall return to this mineralogical analogy later). Go on, get yourself down there. After all, it's only a short(ish) stroll (okay, brisk march) down from Euston station and just tucked below the British Museum. Full location details may be found at If you do make the effort to go, and I sincerely hope you do, make sure that you give yourself plenty of time. The Cartoon Museum is not really that much bigger than a decent sized semi-detached house, but contained within it are unbelievably huge quantities of treasure. I spent well over two hours looking at the Searle exhibits alone and then had to rush around the permanent items upstairs. One of the volunteer curators told me that an attendee had told him that the museum was a jewel-box - small, compact and choc-full of gems. He also said that any other gallery would devote huge halls to a fraction of the Cartoon Museum's contents and I totally agree with him.
The Searle exhibition really is something special. Spanning almost seventy years of imaginative productivity, it begins with his earliest published work, includes his cholera-protected Changi and moves through...
Look, it just cannot be summarised in one sentence. Searle's output is so varied and wide-ranging it just has to be seen to be believed. The emphasis in the exhibition is Searle's reportage for magazines all over the world. It also includes a delightful extended narrative wherein Peter Mayle receives his just come-uppance for popularising Provence.
I was surprised to see how faded some of the work had become, giving a Nineteenth Century feel to some of the drawings, but not the content. This is explained by the fact that for a long period, Searle used a wood-stain instead of ink for his drawings as it was cheaper. The real shock for me, albeit an extremely pleasant one, was Searle's use of colour. Nobody comments on this, but for me it was a revelation. The vibrancy of some of the pieces are stunning - he is a true master.
It has to be said that some of Searle's work can be rather sombre for some tastes, but it is always engaging or thought-provoking. Best of all, as I moved through the exhibition, I continually encountered wholly unexpected pockets of delight. These pockets were the sound of people laughing. Let's not lose sight of the fact that Searle can be very funny and how many museums not only court laughter, but actively encourages it? Laughter is infectious and I heard a lot of it today. Brilliant!
And that was just the main section of the Searle exhibition, there were two addenda included on the ground floor which I could, but won't go on about (although I easily could, as they are equally important). This exhibition is huge.
See it, savour it and treasure it and then reflect on this fact: The majority of Searle's work, when he shuffles off this mortal coil, will not be housed in the country of his birth, but abroad, where his talent is truly appreciated.
Bladdy forrinahs! They come over 'ere, nick our artists and, um, other xenophobic nonsenses.

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Captionless Caption Competition No. 40 Cartoon Thing Etc.

Well, Ladies and Laddies, Gels and Guys, I am absolutely cock-a-hoop and as pleased as Mr. Punch this week. Thirteen (13, count 'em - THIRTEEN) points for yours truly this week. That's the most I have ever had. I also came fifth which is not a disreputable position I think you'll agree. For those of you scratching your heads, the theme sans caption this week was "Superglue". And yes, once again Universal Pictures dictated my thought processes. I have no understanding of why black and white monster fillums of the 1930s, which I may only have seen once, should have such a stranglehold over my imagination, but - well, thirteen points.
Without wishing to look like I'm blowing my own trumpet, I am very proud of this week's effort (pass me that bugle, would you?). I've tightened up my drawing technique, the feet are starting to come good (I'll have to keep an eye on those mitts, though), the shading isn't so scrappy as it has been in the past and - um - that's it really. Best of all, and this outshines all the foregoing, I know for a fact that it made somebody laugh out loud (a 'belly laugh' was the actual term used). THAT outweighs everything else.

Monday, 26 April 2010

Caption Comp. No. 39

Well, after last week's euphoric fourth placing, what did I get this week?
Nothing, zilch, nada, nul point, zero, a complete absence of marks, nought, nowt, nuffink, sod all, a marks vacuum, sweet Fanny Adams, the square root of sweet shag all. Do you catch my drift?
Hands and faces let me down this week. You'd think, wouldn't you, that if I really wanted to take this cartooning malarky seriously, a modicum of ability wouldn't go amiss. *SIGH* Just as the feet started getting better too.
Still, on to the next challenge...

Monday, 19 April 2010

This week's Caption Competition

I was very pleased with this one. Got me joint fourth place too. My head is this big (I'm stretching my arms out as far as they can go).

Saturday, 10 April 2010

A Small Soliloquy Upon My Progress As A Cartoonist

Well, progress is slow and small. I haven't produced much lately. This is due to a number of factors, the largest being laziness. Once I get home from work I am usually too grumpy and tired to put my cartoonist head on and knuckle down to do some (proper) work. This attitude has to change, else I shall perish (Melodramatic? Moi? Take that back, you blackguard, or else taste my kidskin glove in your mush). What do I, in my heart of hearts, seriously want to do? Do I want to draw cartoons or do I want to slam all the doors in the house and then stamp along the landing? Actually, the latter sounds like fun, but I daren't - it would probably loosen the remaining mortar between the bricks and that way homelessness lies.
I have been proffering my wares to various publications, but haven't had any takers as yet. This is a bit dis-heartening, but is all part of the warp and weft of this cartooning malarky. I have never been very good at handling rejection well, but I'm starting to build up a rejection carapace, piece by piece, for my own protection. So, generally, I have accepted rejection with quite a bit of aplomb ("Ha! Another rejection! Add it to the growing pile, Miss Eyre. 'Twill make excellent bedding material for the hamster, should ever we purchase such a creature."). I make an exception for one particular rejection. Come a bit closer, this is weird, this bit is. One publication rejected me twice. The second rejection came when I hadn't even submitted anything. I think it would be fair to say that that would take the wind out of anybody's sails wouldn't it?
To be fair (not my natural stance) the publication that did it, didn't do it intentionally and is probably unaware that it happened at all. So, I can take that act as an unhappy accident that wasn't intended as a personal affront. Or I can take it as a reminder of my own personal insignificance in a cold, uncaring, infinite and expanding universe wherein nothing I do has any bearing on the movements of the heavenly bodies in an ever-expanding starry sky. Therefore what meaning, if any, does my life have? Why am I here? Why have I suddenly sprouted what seem to be herbacious borders in my ears and nostrils? Explain the practical, evolutionary reasons for that, Mr. Dawkins.
Still, mustn't grumble.
I have to go now. I have some work to be getting on with.

Monday, 1 March 2010

Hie thee to London!

The Cartoon Museum is about to begin a new exhibition featuring Ronald Searle to celebrate his 90th birthday. The Master himself has helped to choose materials and drawings to be exhibited. Don't expect St. Trinian's girls or St. Custard's boys. Expect, instead, his more journalistic observations. I can hardly wait!! I'm a kid again. Something wonderful to look forward to. Hee hee! The whole shebang commences on the 3rd March and continues until July.

Sunday, 21 February 2010

Who Watches the Watchmen?

This is this week's effort for the weekly caption competition. I can't see this garnering many points this week for two reasons. First, it's hardly the most hilarious cartoon ever committed to paper: second, I made the dreadful discovery that I am unable to draw feet..

Note to self: Practice drawing feet.

Monday, 15 February 2010

A Gallimaufry Gallery of Cartoons

If a picture's worth a thousand words, mine have a speech impediment. These are some of my entries to the weekly caption competition on the Cartoonist's Club of Great Britain website. Do visit it, please, it's a great site. The captions are not my own, I merely added the images.

Incidentally, clicking on the piccies will turn them into biggies.

Saturday, 13 February 2010

Treading Water

Sorry for the lack of recent entries. Watch this space. Stuff on the way etc. Hello?

Monday, 25 January 2010

An Apology.

I have been behaving like a gormless oaf. Since I started this blog I have neglected to acknowledge any comments made after a post. This sort of behaviour may seem arrogant and aloof, but it was brought about through pure ignorance on my part. I am determined to be a better blogger in future and I proffer my apologies to those who took the time and effort to comment.
In addition, may I offer my belated thanks to those of you who decided to become followers of this blogsite. Ta very muchly one and all.

Saturday, 16 January 2010

Heroes (1) Ronald Searle

"Oh we could be heroes just for one page."
(David Bowie - apart from the very last word.)

I was first introduced to Ronald Searle (that's him in the picture above, politely raising his titfer.) around 1967 or 1968 through an intermediary named Nigel Molesworth. I would have been around nine or ten at the time. Of course, I didn't, nor ever did, meet him in the flesh, but at that point in my life his cartoons made a searing impression upon me (with the very able assistance of the late Geoffrey Willans). There was I, a working class kid (we still had these terms in those days) reading about public schoolboys and absolutely lapping it up. The book was How to be Topp and my edition (which I still have) was published by Puffin Books. I bought it in the only bookshop Stevenage had in those days, (apart from W.H. Smith) S.P.C.K..

I was the son of Irish immigrants and I think the best way to describe my parents would be as working class aspirants. My dad regarded all comics as 'rubbish' but he didn't prevent me from buying and reading them. He did draw the line at Civil War bubble gum cards; once he caught sight of some of those and what they were depicting, they were banned outright. Nevertheless, every now and again my dad would go foraging in a second-hand bookshop (this must have been Moore's in Hitchin) and return with a hardbacked children's classic (Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table etc. I still have the latter. Can you see a book-hoarding pattern emerging here?). These I received with thanks, but I was also allowed to choose and buy my own paperbacks if I had sufficient funds. Pocket money was an irregular income for me, so my choices were very carefully made. How to be Topp must have been a bit of a worry for my parents, for (as any fule kno) Molesworth's spelling is utterly atrocious. But, the drawings, ah the drawings.
The cartoons in How to be Topp are quite spiky and angular in comparison to the drawing above and deceptively simple looking. Lines sometimes crossed over where lines shouldn't. Noses were either drawn with a set-square and protractor or were just a series of loops. They were wonderful.
Shortly after this I discovered The Penguin Ronald Searle at a friend's house. It belonged to my friend's parents and they looked on with interested indulgence as I pored over it. There was a delicious drawing of someone or something putting out a pair of feet, rather than shoes, in a hotel corridor for the night. The macabre has always appealed to me, but at this point in my life I was completely unaware of what Searle had been through.

In February 1942 Sapper Searle of the Royal Engineers picked up an abandoned October 1941 copy of Lilliput magazine in a street in Singapore. Opening it he discovered that they had published his first schoolgirl cartoon; Owing to the international situation the match with St Trinian's has been postponed. Twenty four hours later the British surrendered to the advancing Japanese forces and Ronald Searle was marched off to Changi prison camp. Incredibly, throughout the horrors he endured for the next four years, Searle continued drawing cartoons and recorded camp life (and unpredictable death) in secret: hiding his drawings under the mattresses of cholera victims which the camp guards were reluctant to search.
When the war was over Searle visited the editorial offices of Lilliput and submitted two more St. Trinian's cartoons which had been drawn during his imprisonment. Darker in tone, one depicted a schoolteacher hanging from a tree.
It must have been at this point that he met in the flesh his future wife, Kaye Webb (Kaye Webb had a huge influence on my life in 1967, but that's a different story altogether). She went on to edit a children's magazine called The Young Elizabethan, the title reflecting the coronation of the new Queen. I have a copy of this magazine from the early fifties (but not immediately to hand) and it is littered with spot cartoons by Searle along with a piece by one N. Molesworth, the curse of St. Custard's.
The pieces written by Geoffrey Willans were collected and published as Whizz for Attoms, Down With Skool! and Back in the Jug agane all of which are illustrated by Searle.
The fifties also saw the release of the St. Trinian's films, the first of which, The Belles of St. Trinian's, in 1954 provided cameo parts for Ronald Searle and Kaye Webb. One hour twenty three minutes and thirty three seconds into the film you can see Ronald Searle looking dapper in an overcoat to the left of the screen. I'm pretty sure, but I can't be certain, that Kaye Webb is the parent who is horrified, quite horrified after what she has witnessed. Their daughter, Kate also appears in one of the films, but I don't know which one.
But Searle, to me, is not just St. Trinian's, not when he produces little gems like the following:

As far as atmosphere goes, it is a wonderful piece - seedy proprietor with monsters not withstanding - but take a look at the grill at pavement level! A lovely touch of added gothic.
I have to digress a little here (how can you digress from a meandering mass of waffle?) but it touches upon Searle and what sparked my initial interest.
The Eagle comic's glory days preceded my birth and by the time I obtained my own personal copy (purely to get a Morse Code signaller free gift) Frank Hampson's duties on Dan Dare had pretty much finished. But I was aware of the huge influence The Eagle had on other British comics. Most ostensibly on Odhams' Wham! and the creation of Danny Dare by Leo Baxendale. The post-war, brightly coloured photogravure adventures of the pilot of the future really captured the imagination of British schoolboys. This could more probably be qualified as capturing the imaginations of middle-class British schoolboys as the comic was at the pricier end of the market. But its impact should not be dismissed, because it also impinged upon messieurs Willans and Searle. The visuals that grabbed my attention in How to be Topp (published in 1954) were directly derived from The Eagle.

Searle has also taken Dan Dare's enemy, the Mekon, and transmogrified him into Sigismund Arbothnot, the Mad Maths Master. To me, at the time, this was essentially a comic within a book, an amazing concept. If further proof were needed of The Eagle's influence on Searle, look no further than Whizz for Attoms (published in 1956), which contains the beautiful drawing of a St. Custard's attendee in the post-puff sickness of trying pipe tobacco. The ensuing line is: You hav caught me, sir, like a treen in a disabled space ship. The prosecution rests, m'lud.
Another intriguing aspect of How to be Topp is that, scattered throughout its pages is an unfurling little drama starring two sinister protagonists named Gabbitas and Thring. At the time I had no idea who Gabbitas and Thring were. I only knew that, through the nib of Ronald Searle, they led young men off to a fate worse than death. They are, of course, a very respectable, very establishment education consultancy that was started by Mr. Gabbitas in the nineteenth century. We have now exhausted my complete pool of knowledge about Gabbitas Thring.

Since the sixties I have collected a small number of Searle books. Some I have hunted down, some were gifts from loved ones who knew of my interest in him. But, there is a gap in my life. Gap? A gaping hole, a chasm that will never be filled. A void that has ever tormented my soul. In the mid-seventies Searle designed the characters for an animated film, Dick Deadeye. I have (or had. I can't lay my hands on it) the hardback book, most of which seems untouched by Searle himself. But, I have never seen the film. It was based on Gilbert and Sullivan songs and seems to have sunk without trace. At the time of its release Stevenage was without a cinema, so I never got to see it. I can't find it on DVD. I'm - I'm never going to see it, am I (sob!)?
He is still working today as far as I know, producing drawings for Le Monde which is fair enough since he lives in France. He was also highly influential on the amazing Mad artist, Mort Drucker and you can often see Searle-like characters in the background of his film parodies.
There you go. A highly personal take on a master, to whom I raise a glass of wine in my right hand. My left hand, in the meantime, clutches my copies of Winespeak and Something in the Cellar...

Saturday, 9 January 2010

The Working Environment - The Nuts and Bolts (and wood screws) of Creating a Cartoon.

Workers of the world unite! You have nothing to lose but your chain-stores.
(Marx - except for the last bit.)

I have to offer up a caveat straight away. This is the way I work and much of it is dictated by circumstance. My tools will seem archaic to most, if not all, present day cartoonists, but so what? I enjoy what I do, the way I do it.
All my initial drawings are done on common and garden photocopying paper. Sometimes I use the traditional wooden HB pencil; sometimes I use what used to be called a clutch pencil, but it's probably called something else now (Sebastian, perhaps?).
My working area may be the kitchen table or the sofa in the sitting room. It all depends on how annoying the television is. The preferred area is actually the kitchen, but this may present its own problems. It is not a permanent working area, so stuff has to be cleared away or risk being contaminated by gravy or ketchup. Actually, gaining access to the table itself is fraught with difficulties. As I type this piece of deathless prose, the table is surrounded by several pairs of female boots. There are two female overcoats hanging off the back of two of the chairs and the table top is strewn with a hat, handbags, two recipes, an empty Ferrero Rocher box and a pair of ear-muffs, none of which belong to me. I will confess to the book and newspaper, though.
As you may gather, I am the sole, surviving male in a strongly matriarchal household. My son made good his escape a few years ago. Do I envy him? Not really. Do I miss him? Of course.
As I work on my pencils at the table, I put the i-pod on shuffle and play it through the kitchen stereo. Shuffle often throws up strange juxtapositions, musically speaking, and (Morning Thought Mode) do you know, that's rather how a cartoonist thinks?
I have opined elsewhere (The public forum on the Cartoonist's Club of Great Britain site) that cartoonists are like Metaphysical poets in that they yoke together two disparate thoughts in order to express a universal truth (to paraphrase Dr. Johnson very, very loosely). It could also be argued that cartoonists are, and have been, proto-Post Modernists, again by taking two different ideas and expressing the result as a third entity in its own right; thesis, antithesis, synthesis. As I say, it could be argued thus, but I'm not bloody doing it.
Having arrived at a pencilled drawing on photocopy paper that approximates fairly closely to my satisfaction, what do I do next? Next, I haul out the monstrosity under my bed that is my light-box a.k.a. Wifesbane. It is a piece of home-made equipment that my poor wife hates. She regards it, for the the most part, as a thoroughly useless artifact, the main purpose of which is to enable her to stub her toe upon it. I have had the odd occasion to agree with her and I have the bruises to prove it. I built it based on instructions in The Cartoonist's Workbook by Robin Hall (A & C Black, London, 1995), page 60. If you build it in accordance to Mr. Hall's proportions and materials, it would more than likely turn out to be a beautifully crafted piece of furniture. Mine is A2 sized and made out of white laminated chipboard, except for the base. My base was cannibalised from an old head-board and consequently weighs the same as a baby Indian Elephant. The finished result would have Chippendale drooling, wide-eyed and babbling in the corner of some forgotten cell in a place of incarceration somewhere. But it works, dammit!
My finished drawings are made on the said light-box on Daler Rowney cartridge paper, but just recently I played around with some Winsor and Newton Bristol Board. This is just about twice as thick as cartridge paper and smoother and it is lovely stuff to draw on. It gives my drawings a slicker feel to them. I likes it I does, but it is quite expensive, so I use it very sparingly.
I use what used to be called a dip and scratch pen and Indian ink. The pen-holder is a beautifully varnished wooden body that is a joy to hold. The nib looks like brass and is quite stiff, but it is pliable enough to give me a varied line when I draw. Using a magnifying glass I can make out the nib maker as Leonardt and beneath that the letters IIIEF appear. I have absolutely no idea what that could possibly mean, I only draw with it.
Well, that's it for today. You may wake up now. In future posts I intend to focus on some of my cartoon influences.

Sunday, 3 January 2010

Madness in my Method - Creating Cartoons

I thought I would take you through the creative (ha!) process for one of my more recent cartoons. This was an entry to the aforementioned Cartoonist's Club of Great Britain's Caption Competition. The weekly competition is absolutely perfect for an upstart crow like me. It allows me to think about cartoons. It allows me to experiment with ideas and it means that I'm competing with some of the best cartoonists in Britain. That being so, when I get awarded the odd point now and again, my pride-o-meter goes whizzing off the scale. The tick of approval from a professional means a hell of a lot to me.
Enny-whey, one particular week the caption was "It's not as easy as it looks." Which, in some weeks, encapsulates my thoughts on cartooning exactly. Sometimes I jot down several ideas in very rough formation; almost stick-figures, just to nail an idea, but this particular week an idea sprang, almost unbidden, into my mind. What was the worst thing you could possibly mess up in front of a crowd, prompting the instigator to utter the caption? Why, a public be-heading of course!
Look, this is just the way I think. I don't actually enact any of these thoughts.
I have a problem with my cartoons. I often think the finished, inked result is too stiff in comparison to the pencilled roughs. To my eye the roughs often have a vivacity and zip, for all their faults, that is often lacking in the final drawing, but I'll let you be the judge of that. This is the first rough I drew.

Initially I had the axe sticking into the victim's back, then I placed it into his head. Either way, to have the victim running about on the execution platform, screaming, was far too macabre to be funny. Even I have some sense of propriety. But I was pleased with the actual drawing of the victim - who may or may not be Charles I - , because it had a lovely sense of animation about it. A lot of my cartoons are very static.

So, this was my next effort. My thought process went as follows: Manic, screaming victim = unfunny cartoon. What about a fairly pissed-off looking victim? I thought the end result looked funnier, but at the cost of returning to my usual static figures. Yin, Yang. Swings and roundabouts and so on and so forth. The pissed-off looking maybe-King tickled my fancy.

I had a fairly good idea about seventeenth century attire. I've seen copies of Van Dyke's portraits and once there was a television series of The Children of the New Forest. What I'm saying is: I'm not a complete ignoramus, okay? Nevertheless, I didn't feel I had quite nailed it in the costume department, so it was off to messieurs Goo and Gle, image department, to get some semblance of verisimilitude. To my utter disbelief and astonishment, the entire population of England didn't stride around in riding boots (it would seem). So, perhaps I'm a bit more of an ignoramus than I thought I was. I find that as I get older I tend to cringe a lot more than I used to. This meticulous research led to rough number three.
Okay, so I gained some snazzy looking footwear, but I lost the crowd. I can't quite remember my reasoning for doing this. I suspect I thought that they cluttered up the drawing too much and took the emphasis away from the axe. Perhaps I just couldn't fit them all in. My drawings tend to be quite large. All these roughs were drawn on A4 sized typing/photocopying paper, as are the finished items. Thinking about it, I should have included the crowd. It was a public execution, when all is said and done.

The finished result is below.

Now, then. There are quite a few elements in the finished drawing with which I'm not entirely happy. I think the grey wash is too wishy-washy and the hands are far too naff for my liking. The executioner's expression is a bit nowhere too. But, there is a fair bit that pleases me. I think that, in general, I have the important expressions (annoyance and disdain) caught exactly as I wanted them, but all in all, still a fair bit of work to do. My intention is to re-draw this particular cartoon and add a different caption. Once I've done that I shall try to market it. I don't think it's fair to try and pass off somebody else's efforts (the caption) as my own

There you go. A bit of a lengthy entry today. I hope you enjoyed the walk. At least it didn't rain.